March 15 2016 05:16 PM

Our mammoth review of submissions by 119 local bands

There’s no better way to get to know the pulse of a music scene than to listen to dozens and dozens of demos from local bands. For CityBeat, the Great Demo Review is an annual institution—a regularly scheduled physical to gauge the health of local music. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable; you can think of our slams and critiques as a much-needed reminder to cut down on the cholesterol, if that helps. But more often than not, it introduces us to some of our favorite new bands in town and reminds us that hype and packed clubs are their own kind of measure, but certainly not the only way to find the best music in San Diego.

This year we reviewed 119 demos—about the same number as last year—and 33 of which were written by me. That tested my resolve, let me tell you. But of those 129 we found a lot that we liked (earning the label “EXTRASPECIALGOOD”) and a handful that we really didn’t. In turn, we hope this means you, the reader, will find your new favorite local band as well. Listening to this many demos always wears us out, but in the end, it’s worth it in the name of discovery.

—Jeff Terich


2 Bottles
Feel the Heat

Picture the iconic "slappin' da bass, man" jam sesh from I Love You, Man. Now, keep the crappy garage acoustics, but deduct the charm of Jason Segel and Paul Rudd's bromance, and ramp up the band members' alcohol intake. Throw in some original songwriting, and that's 2 Bottles. Unable to remember their own lyrics, play in sync or maintain a rhythm, 2 Bottles' attempt at a rock band will never leave the dark, drunken depths of their man cave.

-Torrey Bailey


3D
“Living My Life”

"Living My Life" samples The Menahan Street Band's "Make the Road by Walking," which immediately made me think that I was about to hear Jay Z's "Roc Boys," which also samples that slice of laid-back funk. This isn't half bad though, if only because the producer has great taste. The emcee's lyrics are fairly forgettable, but it's good chillout hip-hop for lazy afternoons. 3dakabennycanales.bandcamp.com

-Jeff Terich


13 Wolves
Invasion

It's pretty much what you'd expect from a self-described "Nordic Werewolf Horror Punk" band whose members all wear wolf masks (get it?) while they play. Sample lyric from "Hungry For Your Flesh": "I'm the monster in your dream/Creature in the closet that makes you scream/I'm the raven at your door/Caw, caw, caw, I'm hungry for more/Caw, caw, caw, I'm hungry for more." Caw, motherfucker! 13wolves.bandcamp.com

-Scott McDonald


1019 The Numberman
Demo

On the heels of 2014's concept-collab with J. Treel, Treel Tales of Number Running, as well as his own envelope-pushing, four-song cassette last year, The Natalie Rose EP, 1019 The Numberman keeps the ball of solid releases rolling on his latest three-track excursion. Nicely produced by Aki Kharmicel, 1019 (aka Jay Smith) once again showcases his lyrical acuity over a selection of funky and fragmented beats.

-Scott McDonald


AJ Froman
Phoenix Syndrome

Not a person, but rather a band—and one with a robust lineup at that—AJ Froman crams a lot of ideas and dramatic sounds into their progressive pop. Taking some heavy cues from The Mars Volta and just about every prog-rock band from the '70s, they err on the side of excess, which would be trying if they weren't so good at it. In fact, I can't help but be impressed at the rhythmic dexterity and diversity of sound they showcase here. It's not necessarily the first thing I'd reach for, but it's a strong showing even if the whole thing smacks of effort, man. ajfroman.bandcamp.com

-Jeff Terich


Amen BK
“One Sky Above”

This is spoken-word poetry over world beat production. With a kumbaya sentiment that's a bit hokey, "One Sky Above" has good intentions but ultimately misses the mark. It's not necessarily a bad song, but with lines like, "Tolerance is unity for the sake of humanity," this one comes up a tad short.

-J. Smith


American Rust
American Rust

American Rust tread that awkward middle ground between pop-punk, grunge and glam metal, which means they play loud, distorted power chords in familiar progressions. Their singer sounds a bit like Bryan Adams, which means his earnest rasp comes across as a little awkward next to the wall of Marshall stack chords, but at least he stays in key. The most ridiculous part of the whole EP is the song "American Rust," which starts with cigarette-lighter-beckoning fretwork before mashing up Mellancamp and Guns 'n' Roses. Ain't that America. americanrust.bandcamp.com

-Jeff Terich


Amigo
Little Cliffs

Straight-ahead hard rock that chugs and then slogs along at the speed of a Tony Iommi bowel movement. The closing ballad "Amulet" hints at something a little more mature but is still bogged down in derivative riffage and '70s golden god platitudes. facebook.com/amigomusicsd

-Seth Combs


Arms Away
Megafauna EP

With no included band information and the attached links not shedding any additional light, it's hard to tell much about this North Park quartet. But they do know how to craft songs. The Megafauna EP is well written, and there's a refined sense of sonic texturing throughout. It's polished and would fit right in on modern rock radio.

-Scott McDonald


Arus
Escape from DELTHON-7

The Internet has given us a window into musical worlds we never would've seen just a couple of decades ago. It's hard to imagine a major record label getting behind a band like Arus. But in 2016, anyone can set up a Bandcamp page, and Arus uses theirs to tell stories about space pirates set to heavily processed metal. These are hyper-melodic epics that feature laser-guided guitar shredding and the robotic churn of programmed drums. There's good material here, but Arus just needs more resources. arusofnemedia.bandcamp.com

-Ben Salmon


EXTRASPECIALGOOD
Δstral Touch
Demo

The bedroom recording, no doubt, carries many connotations—not all of them positive. For starters, the Internet is overstuffed with homemade recordings that were rushed to fruition just because the artist had technology. But let us not forget the inherent sexiness of the bedroom, and that is where stral Touch shines. Nathan Leutzinger, the one-man operation behind stral Touch, is both expansive and constrictive through his four-song demo. His music—a healthy mix of Animal Collective-esque experimentation, pre-bro dubstep, the coldness of the xx and Drive-soundtrack nostalgia—pulses like a one-night stand that you'll regret the next day. stral Touch evokes memories of our first make-out session: a weird, exciting and vaguely frightening experience, but ultimately leaves you wanting more. soundcloud.com/astral-touch

-Ryan Bradford


Authentic Sellout
Take Back the Streets

Authentic Sellout aims to be a force to be reckoned with. Their timing is in tight synchronicity, with drums booming mightily while guitars tear through the atmosphere and lead singer Sulo guiding the songs with his powerful belt of a voice. The title track would be perfect background music to a bar fight that got out of hand, and now the big guy in the corner has a knife. facebook.com/authenticsellout/

-Evan Nyarady


Badonkaville
Three Songs

Badonkaville's three submitted songs aren't so much credible demos but experimental goofs by some guys with nothing but time on their hands. "Holy D" features a keyboard set to "choir" and a conversation about "spaghetti dick" between God and someone named Thomas. The other two songs are a stylized synth-soul ballad called "Wet Dream" and an a cappella doo-wop tune called "Now You See It, Now It's Big." They make "Holy D" sound brilliant.

-Ben Salmon


Ball Turret Gunner
Ian Beeson’s Ball Turret Gunner

Spazz-punk romps with lines like "I'm in love with the village bicycle" and quandaries like "How come you don't ever look me in the eyes when I'm taking you from behind?" If you overlook the fact that Beeson has that Fisher Price: My First Punk Band John Lydon snarl and don't get bent out of shape about actual musicianship, then it's a fun listen. facebook.com/ballturretgunner

-Seth Combs


Bang Bang Jet Away
Temptation Resisted Always Feels Like A Good Time Wasted

This collection of songs from Bang Bang Jet Away is fun, jangly, garage rock. There's something light-hearted and nostalgic about this six-song EP. While the vocalist sounds partly like Bob Dylan and Lou Reed, he still manages to make the songs his own. "When I raise hell you're gonna know it," he sings on "When A Proud Man Is Down." I'm excited to hear what kind of hell they have in store. soundcloud.com/bang-bang-jet-away

-Alex Morales


Beira
Vol. I

There are only four tracks on Beira's Vol. I, but it still runs well past the 40-minute mark. Indeed, these are pretty massive compositions, each one a slow-moving doom metal monolith with psychedelic overtones. They require a little patience on the part of the listener; "Cailleach" and "Mountain" each takes around 90 seconds or longer before finally wrapping up the intro. Yet once the band lets those riffs fly, Beira becomes a roaring beast, chugging with power and majesty. This gives me hope for the future of doom in San Diego. beiramusic.bandcamp.com

-Jeff Terich


Big Bloom
Heavy Angel EP

This co-ed foursome band is all over the place on this five-song EP. From jangly garage-pop ("Country Boy") and post-punk kiss-offs ("Punk Song"), to gorgeous balladry ("Slow Ride") and a killer psychedelic freakout (the appropriately titled "Heavy Angel"), the band seems to be indecisive what kind of band they want to be. But who cares?! The songs are all great and whatever they lack in sonic cohesiveness, they make up for it with craftsmanship in spades. bigbloom.bandcamp.com

-Seth Combs

EXTRASPECIALGOOD
Bighorn Run
Demo

Bighorn Run would fit in perfectly at a music festival featuring surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd and, if Duane could somehow pull a Lazarus, an Allman Brothers revival tour. Good solid rock is a rare bird nowadays, and there was a reason this kind of music swept through the minds of an entire generation. It's perfect music for surfing the inner waves of consciousness, working in a metal shop and all things in between. The album opens with the seven-minute jam "All the Years," a meditation on continuing through life, albeit with dirty guitar and kicking drums. "On Your Own" serves as a nicely paced crescendo jam with a taut song structure. But the real gem is "Upside Down." Opening with a slow feedback whine, the song descends into an evil end-of-the-world swamp jam. When the vines crumble the bridges once and for all, if humanity is reduced once more to traveling nomads with sharpened bones for knives, this is the song they will chant. These guys know what they're doing. soundcloud.com/bighornrun

-Evan Nyarady


Black Oak Hymnal
Cults Double EP

This is self-described "Acid Folk/Death Country" in the key of Tindersticks and Mark Kozelek, and hallmarked by veteran musicianship and clever lyrics. Both the album and the individual tracks seem to meander on and on for far too long, though, and I found my eyes glazing over a bit, but if you're walking the Appalachian trail with a pocketful of Adderall, this would make a killer soundtrack. blackoakhymnal.bandcamp.com

-Seth Combs


Brooklyn G
Demo

Beat-laden, sample-heavy noir-hop with no vocals but clips of dialogue from films and god only knows what (there's a woman talking about being told to grab a photographer's junk). It's dark and unsettling, sometimes veering toward industrial, though the first track has a cheesy late-nite Skinemax soundtrack feel about it. I get the feeling Brooklyn G is trying to make a statement, I just have no idea what that statement is. soundcloud.com/brooklyng

-Jeff Terich


Captain Viejo
“Doormat”

"Doormat," the single track that comprises Captain Viejo's demo, sounds dated in a lot of ways—from the Eddie Vedder-esque intensity of the vocals to The Cult-like psychedelic freakout. But that's not to say it's bad. In fact, the production quality is way better than a lot of other nostalgia-mining bands. If you remember the weird intersection of dying hair metal and burgeoning grunge in the early '90s, then you get the idea.

-Ryan Bradford


Chill Pill
Lavender

There are some records that you throw on and immediately think to yourself: Oh, this dude definitely smokes weed. Chill Pill's music is like the aural equivalent of being so high that you almost can't hang, but if you can keep it together, there's a lot of great weirdness to behold. If you've ever pined to listen to slowed-down Oasis, or wished that MGMT was even weirder, then Chill Pill has you covered. soundcloud.com/haveachillpill

-Ryan Bradford


Cloud Mammoth
Between the Sounds of Sleep

It's a shame this lo-fi quartet from Escondido had a "gigantic and drama-filled breakup last October" and "almost no one listened" to this nine-song release. It's pretty good. And like early Low or Sparklehorse, it's a solid solution when in need of some auditory morphine. soundcloud.com/cloudmammoth

-Scott McDonald


Cloudside
Emerging Echoes

Cloudside is a band of local veterans, which includes members of Weatherbox, among others. And that being said, it's an album-quality recording rather than one that sounds like a demo, as can be expected of a team of musicians that have been in the game a while. Emerging Echoes is pure #emorevival feelings-core, loaded with hands-to-the-heavens sing-along moments and young dude angst. It skews a little Dashboard Confessional, but the melodies aren't half bad. soundcloud.com/cloudside

-Jeff Terich


CPRS
“Pensar en ti”

Mid-tempo MOR rock with lyrics in Spanish. This could possibly be mistaken for a Baja-based Jimmy Eat World cover band, which endears me to it a bit, though CPRS isn't doing anything terribly new or innovative.

-Jeff Terich


Crooked
Crooked

San Diego, for some reason, can't get enough of Irish punk, but thankfully Crooked left the "punk" part of that equation behind and instead blend Irish folk with bluegrass in a knee-slappin', foot-stompin', jug-blowin' jamboree. You've definitely heard bands like this before at Irish pubs and farmer's markets, which doesn't mean this isn't fun, just familiar. crookedmusic.bandcamp.com

-Jeff Terich


Eddie Cruz
ORALE

I'm not really sure there's an appropriate response to an artist who uses the hashtag #sugarray on his Soundcloud page other than "nope." But there are so many disjointed ideas here that it's hard to focus. Even the #sugarray tag becomes confusing, as there are no sonic similarities to that innocuous staple of terrible '90s artists. Wait a minute, maybe Cruz's grating synth sounds, mid-tempo beats and a confusing hip-hop song are all statements about the thematic laziness of that bygone decade. Let's hope so.

-Ryan Bradford


Disco Death Bots
Attack of the Disco Death Bots

On the first proper song of this release, "A Dark Beginning," Disco Death Bots are neither disco nor robotic. I was beginning to think that they were guilty of some false advertising, but it turns out that they were just waiting a little bit longer to hit me with those funky robotic beats. As lo-fi, synth-based indie pop goes, it's not half bad, but there's not a lot of cohesion here, other than the general application of synthesizers and danceable beats. This is fun, but Disco Death Bots has some stuff to figure out. soundcloud.com/discodeathbots

-Jeff Terich


Def Shon
Pre-Registration

Def Shon's Pre-Registration takes a lot of cues from Kanye West's Late Registration, right down to the artwork and overstuffed tracklist. That's both a good and bad thing, for while Def Shon's great in his strongest moments, and the production is bright and vibrant, this did not by any means have to be 25 tracks long. Nor did it need eight skits. To be sure, Def Shon is awfully generous to pack all this material in here, but even Kanye eventually came around to erring on the side of brevity. facebook.com/defshon

-Jeff Terich


DiVad
Demo

The singer's name is Gene Simmons, but unfortunately this is no KISS. Kiss-my-butt-rock is more like it. I don't know if they got their band name from the Urban Dictionary term for procrastination or not, but by the sound of their music, originality isn't their thing.

-Demetrius Antuña


Down Big
Loosie

"Finished in Fresno," the first track on Down Big's two-track demo Loosie, sounds exactly like Pavement's "Range Life." That's not a bad thing, of course, although based on the drinkin'-and-fightin' roadhouse country-western storytelling in the song, Down Big likely fancy themselves more akin to Buck Owens or Merle Haggard. And that's perfectly admirable. It's decent alt-country, whatever they're going for. downbig.bandcamp.com

-Jeff Terich


The Drabs
Here Comes The Joy

If Big Star had ever recorded a Christmas album, it might have sounded like this four-song EP from the self-described "slack rock/clandestine pop band." March isn't exactly the ideal time to listen to the Westerberg-style rock of "Santa's Got Toys" and the melodic ballad "Mary Christmas," but there are sentiments throughout the record that are nice no matter the season. thedrabs.bandcamp.com

-Seth Combs


Dreams Made Flesh
“You Now”

A brand new band featuring two former members of Ilya (Blanca Rojas and John Mattos), Dreams Made Flesh mostly abandon that band's grand, ornate darkness in favor of a catchier, more 4AD-inspired post-punk and dream-pop sound. The immediacy of their sole recorded song, "You Now," captures attention on first listen, but it's the brilliant swirl of guitars and effects that rise up in the chorus, set against Rojas' commanding vocals, that turn this track from good to great. Whatever Dreams Made Flesh is cooking, I'll take a dozen to go, please. facebook.com/dreamsmadefleshmusic

-Jeff Terich


Floodflower
Two Songs

At this point, it seems like every genre of music has smashed into every other genre. We've got electro-pop, punk-grass, psych-jazz and so on. Prog-rock and post-punk aren't exactly an obvious musical pair, but Floodflower ably touches on both. "Cliff Song" begins with two minutes of a taut drum-and-bass groove before launching into darkened canyons of electric guitar separated by odd rhythmic shifts. "Midnighy's Halo" is funkier, with more emphasis on the singer's unique, theatrical vocals. Strangely compelling stuff.

-Ben Salmon


Freedom Fries
Demo

Despite the amateurish execution of this demo, it's really hard to get mad at a band named Freedom Fries. That's not to say it's not without its merits: The song "Rebel Run," is a driving lo-fi rocker that sounds like early R.E.M., but the fierceness of that song disappears on the rest of the demo, which is slow, overly dramatic and can be gratingly repetitive. You work better when you keep it mean, Freedom Fries. soundcloud.com/freedomfriesunite

-Ryan Bradford


Matt Fowler
Demo

Matt Fowler previously put in work as a drummer for Stewardess, but this new set of demos finds him stepping up to the microphone and strapping on a guitar, delivering his own country-influenced indie folk tunes. As a vocalist, he relies less on histrionics than like-minded singer/songwriters such as Conor Oberst, but the songs themselves are lushly arranged and gorgeous. Perfectly breezy ballads to pair with whiskey on weekend afternoons.

-Jeff Terich


Girl in the Middle
Magnolia

Despite my hard-earned loathing of country music, I'll willingly applaud the percussionists and guitarists in this Americana ensemble. I even have respect for the cheesy-yet-creative lyrical comparison between unwanted feelings for an ex and a breeze that finds its way through the door cracks in "Some Doors." But for the lot singing through the tracks sounding like Shania Twain coming down with laryngitis, it's not working. soundcloud.com/gkzoid

-Torrey Bailey


John Gross
Demo

Nothing quite drowns my happiness and shatters my faith in the human project than goofy white-dude, feel-good rock. John Gross means well, and he's got a decent voice, but his music is so vanilla that it makes comparable Better Than Ezra sound dangerous. I'm sure this type of stuff kills in Solana Beach, where the crowd is too rich, drunk and sunburnt to discern quality music.

-Ryan Bradford


The Hand of Gavrilo
Two-song EP

As each song started on this post-punk duo's two-track debut, I hoped some vocals would spice it up. Be careful what you wish for. The chorus of "Black Beauties" deserves an award for special achievement in snore-inducing lyrics. "Too Late" doesn't get much better with excessive rhyming and a flat-lining plotline. There's talent in the instrumentation, but overall, I have just one word for them: underwhelming. thehandofgavrilo.bandcamp.com

-Torrey Bailey


EXTRASPECIALGOOD
Hexa
Bata Motel

Back in the mid-'90s, I was always quick to point out why I preferred PJ Harvey's brand of alt-rock over Tori Amos. Put simply, Tori Amos always sounded like she was going to kill herself. PJ Harvey sounded like she was going to kill you. (#TeamPJ #4Eva.) With her adept piano playing, it might be tempting to lump Carrie Gillespie Feller into the Amos camp, but the main creative force behind Hexa is much more aligned with Harvey's brand of moody, mysterious and mischievous baroque-rock. This four-song primer capitalizes on the promise Feller showed in bands such as Street of Little Girls and Ilya, but leans much darker. Opening track "Campo" begins with a simple piano riff that builds into a foreboding horror film score, accompanied by Feller's fierce bellow. "Enyo" and "Grace" are droning, ethereal ballads, recalling recent peers such as Julianna Barwick and Julia Holter. The EP closes with the aggressive kiss-off, "Chloe," where Feller proclaims, "I'm blank inside, but if that's your thing, I'm as good as good has ever been." Can't say I disagree. hexamusic.bandcamp.com

-Seth Combs


The High Gallery
The High Gallery

Five songs of standard-issue roots rock, but hey, it's available for purchase on 8-track, so that counts for something. And while Carissa Schroeder's bluesy vocals do hold up across the EP's subtle stylistic variations, and Mark Steven Wiskowski should get an "atta boy" for the heavy-lifting of writing both music and lyrics, I just can't imagine anyone under 35 caring. facebook.com/thehighgallery

-Scott McDonald


Rick Hines
Sampler

Basically, this is what happens when a failed slam poet learns the basics of GarageBand and decides to subject all his Facebook friends to his political diatribes set to tuneless, mismatched sound collages. There is some pleasurable guitar work on "Panda," but it sadly doesn't pair well with Hines' eye-rollingly awful banalities about sad pandas and lonely wolves. ricks-studio.com

-Seth Combs


Hookers on Stilts
Bombed at the Box Office

High octane, one-man rockabilly blues jams in the spirit of Bob Log and Jon Spencer that don't really offer up anything particularly innovative but would still be fun to listen to if you were drunk at a bar. Even then, I'd probably still find frontman Ian Beeson's cockney Jello Biafra voice to be grating. facebook.com/hookersonstilts

-Seth Combs


I Forgot
Skinny Veny

A nondescript CD with a couple of two-word phrases written in Sharpie, this demo offered precious little in the way of actual information. (Honestly, I'm not totally sure which is the artist name and which is the album title.) Doesn't matter though—this is hypnotic, psychedelic hip-hop in the vein of Flying Lotus with a pair of hungry emcees. I don't know anything about these guys, but I definitely want to know more.

-Jeff Terich


iD the Poet
cementstrumentals vol. 1

iD the Poet has already established himself as a rapper with striking flow and a populist point of view. On this five-track collection, he lets his beats do the talking, and the results are low-key cinematic. "Angels Landing" pairs a stark drum pattern with some moody, moonlit soul vibes, while the smeared horns and record scratching of "Solid Gold" sound like the theme song from a '70s detective show diced and spliced into something cool. Let this EP soundtrack your night in, homebody.idthepoet.com

-Ben Salmon


EXTRASPECIALGOOD
Indoor Cities
Holy Land, Wayward Seas

A lot of math rock runs the risk of being really technically impressive but totally unlistenable after about two minutes. Not Indoor Cities, however. Their songs are complex but easy to listen to and get lost in. Everything is thoughtfully composed, from the driving drums and bass, to the noisy but delicate guitar, to the moody electro-ambient interludes between songs. This band was active in 2014 and released one amazing album. I would kill to see them live, and I am calling for a reunion, so make it happen, dudes. indoorcities.bandcamp.com

-Carrie Gillespie Feller


Jackslacks
Invisible

As a founding member of veteran San Diego acts Forbidden Pigs and Hot Rod Lincoln, Jackslacks (aka Chris Giorgio) has long enjoyed a career steeped in rockabilly and roots-rock. But the drummer/vocalist has released a lot of new music in recent years, and the three songs on Invisible feature a solid cast of players, excellent musicianship and a malt-shop feel.

-Scott McDonald


John Intrabartolo
Just Another Day in Paradise

Breezy, easy-going Latin jazz made essentially entirely on keyboards. And that goes for the beats, the horns, just about everything except for the appearance of a live trombone on "Whoa Yeah!" This probably wouldn't be so cornball if Intrabartolo didn't use the MIDI horns, but it's impossible to ignore them. OK when it doesn't sound like a Casio demo track. mojopiano.bandcamp.com

-Jeff Terich


Just Blackk
The Black Files

My iTunes actually recognized this CD, which was handy—not having to reference a handwritten tracklist is always a plus. But it's also a signifier of something bigger: Just Blackk is beyond the demo phase. The Black Files is a proper album of socially conscious, politically charged yet soulful and fun hip-hop that recalls those halcyon days of the early '00s when J Dilla was still with us and Kanye West was flipping chipmunk soul samples. I'm into it.

-Jeff Terich


K-Rock tha Fantom
Nearly God//Almost Human Album Sampler

I commend any rapper trying to address issues such as global warming and police violence, but K-Rock unfortunately spends most of his time dealing in the same 'ol rap cliches: The hustle is real, the struggle is hard, and no one spits better rhymes than him. Some of the beats are sick ("Save Me" from producer Infinity Gauntlet is a definite standout) and there are some tight guest verses, but K-Rock is, in the end, only human. soundcloud.com/k-rock-tha-fantom

-Seth Combs


Keith Richard Ramirez
The Sniffer

With Keith on drums and Ramirez on "gits" and "vox," this metal duo left me wondering: who the hell is Richard? I'm also curious how sales are going for their ìlimited-edition cassette with "Crystalmeth infused jewel case." Either way, The Sniffer is like bad foreplay that never ends and all vocals, especially on "Ese.P.E.C." (whatever that stands for), sound like they were recorded on a Sidekick 4 as the singer was drowning while also going through puberty. keithrichardramirez.bandcamp.com

-Torrey Bailey


Krass Bros.
Strictly V.I.P.’s

Extra props to this local soul/jazz trio for naming their band after the Philly-based "Store of the Stars" and its crazy-awesome commercials. Nothing but solid grooves on these eight nicely arranged instrumentals, and Mark Boyce's badass work on the keys would have even Jimmy Smith saying, "Hot damn!" I would love to hear a great vocalist with these guys sometime, but for now, they're doing just fine holding it down on their own. soundcloud.com/krassbros

-Scott McDonald


La Receta de la Abuela
LRDLA II

As a Long Beach native, I separate myself from the thick layer of disgust coating Sublime-style music in this office. But Tijuana-based band La Receta de la Abuela (translation: Grandma's Recipe) decreases the genre's obnoxious bro factor with cross-cultural pride that's tuned to psychedelic tones, blending border cultures by mixing tongues. This guera was tapping her toes and bets people beyond Pacific Beach's sandy, fratty shores might, too. soundcloud.com/lrdlaofficial

-Torrey Bailey


Leather Werewolf
Demo

Jamie Sweetin, aka Leather Werewolf, recorded five songs in his bedroom and played, wrote and sang all of it. Some of it reminds me of early Bright Eyes or Daniel Johnston, in that it's pretty indulgent and lacks discipline, but is oddly charming. Bedroom recordings are easy to do these days, but bouncing your ideas off other people sometimes is a better idea.

-Carrie Gillespie Feller


Left in Company
7 Years Ago, Now

Previous EXTRASPECIALGOOD honorees Left In Company released this set of songs recorded seven years ago (hence the name), which finds them sounding a lot younger and not quite as dynamic as they've become. That being said, considering their relative youth on this recording, they still sound pretty damn good. This is the sound of a pair of local hip-hop MVPs shaping their sound, and while they'd certainly only get better from here, it's a strong showing for sure. leftincompany.com

-Jeff Terich


Little Heroine
“Crying Skies”

From the beginning of Little Heroine's "Crying Skies," it's hard not to get the impression that this band is working with a bigger budget than a lot of the bands we listened to during this round, or at least have some friends with a nice recording studio. So of course it's produced crisply and pristinely. As for the song itself, it sounds like Rilo Kiley's "Portions for Foxes" as covered by Fall Out Boy or something, with some R&B melisma after the chorus. It's ... confusing. soundcloud.com/littleheroine

-Jeff Terich


Lo-Fi Eyed
Demo

Lo-Fi Eyed is an instrumental rock band that could probably best be described as post-rock, though the beginning of "Twisted" sounds more like Metallica than Tortoise. Dramatic, dynamic music with a cinematic bent that aims for the heroic, and more often than not comes pretty close. lo-fieyed.com

-Jeff Terich


Los Shadows
Demo

National City's Los Shadows encapsulates the current sound of San Diego pretty clearly and succinctly. It's surf-inspired garage rock with dreamy post-punk touches and catchy melodies. In certain parts, like "Seaside," the more atmospheric textures take over and showcase them as a band with sounds and directions still yet to explore. A lot of it is mostly feel-good rock 'n' roll, however, like the lounge-garage bossa nova of "Sangria." I like what they're doing, and I'm interested to see where they're going. losshadows.bandcamp.com

-Jeff Terich


Mango
Faux Music/Shy Music

Just on the verge of being EXTRASPECIALGOOD, these guys take the spirit of í90s slacker-rock and combine with-it elements of electro, folk, psychedelia and '70s hard-rock. The whole thing echoes Terror Twilight-era Pavement had they grown up in Laurel Canyon with The Afghan Whigs as roommates. Part of me wishes they could reel the sound in a bit more, but given some of the stellar tracks here, I'm confident the experimentalism is leading them somewhere promising. mangonoise.com

-Seth Combs


Martin and the Big Nativity Scene
Live at the North Pole

facebook.com/martinandthebignativityscene

-Seth Combs


Marujah
Guerrero

San Diego's Marujah (by way of Tennessee) follow in the footsteps of France's Mano Negra—blending multiple styles, over a foundation of rock and ska, into songs that range from politically charged to tongue-in-cheek. Self-described as "almost equal parts rock, reggae, Latin, electronica and stoner rock," Marujah would benefit from putting all those styles in the old Sesame Street "One of these things (is not like the other)" box and ditching the odd one out. (Hint: Stoner rock.)

-Scott McDonald


MILATK
Demo

There's an uncanny quality to MILATK's music that's both intriguing and infuriating. Much like early Ween, it sounds like someone strained easy-listening music through a mesh of nightmares. At times, it's almost lucid enough to make you tap your feet and nod your head. Most of the time, however, it sounds like what you would hear if you were drowning in six inches of water in a kiddie pool at Bonnaroo.

-Ryan Bradford


Millionaire Beach Bums
Shorebreak

The Millionaire Beach Bums are a quartet of 12-to-15-year-old kids that play original surf jams. That statement will either make you stoked on the youth of today or feel like punching their parents in the face, but either way, these kids can play. Wouldn't be surprised if some, if not all of these guys, were making some real noise in the San Diego scene within a handful of years.

-Scott McDonald


Mimi Zulu
Demo

Singer Mimi Zulu has potential. And her voice, a liquor-soaked whisper, is her best asset. The biggest drawbacks here, though, are the beats. As interesting as her voice is, it doesn't save the music—sterile backing tracks that suffer from bland factory presets and stock drum sounds. If Mimi Zulu can find herself a solid production team or a decent live band, she just might discover a winning formula. mimizulu.bandcamp.com

-J. Smith


Mindray
EP

Listening to this, I thought I was hearing some great lost sides from Ride and Echo & the Bunnymen. The three tracks on this EP are slightly shoegazey, slightly psychedelic and have more than a hint of Smiths-ian moodiness to them thanks to a frontman who sounds like he stumbled upon a batch of 'ludes. It isn't mind-blowingly novel, but the sad bastard in me can't wait to hear more. soundcloud.com/mindray-506320866

-Seth Combs


Minor Gems
Demo

Pretty, hazy, effects-laden indie pop in the vein of Wild Nothing, Beach Fossils or Beach House with a little bit more muscle. Minor Gems have a sound that's pretty and smoothed out in all the right places. That being said, it's not the kind of music that leaves a big impression when you hear it, but they've got an interesting aesthetic down. With a few more memorable songs, they'll be on to something. soundcloud.com/minorgems

-Jeff Terich


Mockingbird
Demo

Mockingbird is a singing/songwriting husband-and-wife duo that occasionally morphs into a trio by inviting their son to play bass with them. As terrifying as that sounds, the three songs here are perfectly easy going, nicely arranged and more genuine than 90 percent of any She & Him record.

-Scott McDonald


Morphesia
Four Song Demo

"Now you must die," screams the frontman known as Zombie on "Left to Rot," the fourth track on this solid comp of death metal. Considering the genre, it's not the most novel of sentiments, but Satan would nonetheless be proud of these four face-melting tracks. The production value could use some work, but considering this is a one-man project, it's easy to overlooks and Morphesia should fit in nicely within San Diego's already criminally underrated metal scene. morphesia.bandcamp.com

-Seth Combs


The Moves Collective
Two Miles High

"Two Miles High" would fit perfectly on an indie-folk playlist featuring Of Monsters and Men or Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. With songs built on multi-part harmony and emotional sincerity, The Moves Collective are polished. They aren't redefining folk rock on this EP, but when you have songs like "Elizabeth" and "Don't Waste Another Day," there's no need to. themovescollective.com

-J. Smith


Mr. Nobody
End Me

For the most part, Mr. Nobody's sound can be summed up using one of their own song titles: "Stupid Fast Song About the Same Old Fucking Thing." The title is an apt description for any of the 11 songs on this EP. Straight-ahead punk-by-numbers that doesn't stray far from the genre's limited chord progressions and subject matter. It's not bad for what it is, but it's by no means good. mr-nobody.bandcamp.com

-Seth Combs


Mr. Ridley & Parker Edison
The Parker Meridien EP

The opening track of this four-song EP is a feast for the senses. "Getters" is a bouncy blend of blown-out beats, sturdy raps, jazzy piano and party vibes that sounds like a brawny cousin of Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince's "Summertime" that traveled into the 21st century looking for heads to knock. The other three songs don't deliver quite the same thrill, but each is a compelling reminder that there's a whole world of hip-hop bubbling under the underground. This is rock-solid hip-hop that's organic and inventive.

-Ben Salmon


Murder By Techno
Demo

I put this on in the background while I was working, and I completely forgot I was listening to music. I found myself completely absorbed in the task at hand, and it wasn't until after the John Carpenter-esque track "Storming the Castle" ended that I was abruptly taken out of my zone by unnecessarily disjointed noodling guitar sounds. Hypnotic stuff, but the songs are way too short and the guitar(?) is distracting.

-Demetrius Antuña


Patrick Murphy
Mind & Sound

At first listen, the opening track sounds like a cut from R.E.M's Automatic For The People. Then the guitar solo kicks it out of alignment with a style that sits just off center. Track three stumbles into a Spin Doctors-style, white-boy funk sinkhole that is meant to display some kind of musical prowess, but it fires with all the grace of a jalopy with a squirrel-chewed ignition system. All told, the music lacks fire but is fun and a good fit for people that like tailgate parties and non-polarizing acoustic rock.

-Brian Reilly

EXTRASPECIALGOOD
The Natives
FUNNSEXY

The Natives are a testament to how ridiculousness can work if you're 110 percent committed to it, and their FUNNSEXY demo feels like a culmination of San Diego music at its best. There's infinite joy in listening to lead singer Tony Fantano's unhinged bark—a cross between Jello Biafra and Murder City Devils' Spencer Moody—and the band's raw energy seamlessly incorporates a sly sense of humor, a dash of menace, and darkness around the edges. It's basically the sonic equivalent of an R-rated Looney Tunes cartoon. Listening to the increasing rage of Fontano's repeated "Fun, Fun, Fun, Sexy! FUN FUN FUNSEXYFUN!" on the demo's title track is worth the price of admission alone. This type of music is always welcome at our table. facebook.com/thenatives03

-Ryan Bradford


NEIN
(I Wanna Incite a) Riot

The cover art of NEIN's demo features an old photo of the three members as teens, snarling in scary teen fashion; the back features them now—photographic proof to the enduring power of punk. When you remove the shrink-wrap(!) from the CD, you find a lyric sheet inside. That's a lot of packaging for one song. The song's pretty good though. Wish they'd spent more time making music instead of manufacturing physical waste. NEIN.band

-Ryan Bradford


Never Pass Go
Death Walks In A Bar…

For the first couple of listens, I couldn't place my finger on what it was about Never Pass Go's music that bothered me so much. I'm a sucker for blue-collar street punk, and the singer's voice had a finely cultivated rasp similar to the singer of One Man Army. Then I figured it out: the guy can't sing on the beat. Try tapping out the rhythm while listening, and you find yourself lost in frustrating discordance. facebook.com/NeverPassGo

-Ryan Bradford


No1Special
The No1Special EP

The debut EP from local rap duo No1Special could be the soundtrack to an episode of Broad City. Though the title track "The Worst," was initially a turnoff with lyrics like "I'll put this pen up in your neck," overall the EP was decent. "Grow" and "Gold and Silver" both stood out with their Gramatik-like samples. Some of the tracks had potential with politically infused lyrics but got lost in layers of noise and vinyl scratching.

-Alex Morales


No Time to Tarry
Mountains ate the Rivers

No Time to Tarry describes itself as an "experimental outsider folk collective originally from Arkansas." They have a Bandcamp page with a broken link to the notimetotarry.com website, no social media presence, no individual musician credits, no band photos. Acoustic guitar is interspersed with what sounds like occasional oboe and organ, and it's all very mysterious, with a film soundtrack vibe. If you are into mid-'90s Chicago music like Gastr Del Sol or Loftus, this might be your thing. Notimetotarry.bandcamp.com

-Carrie Gillespie Feller

EXTRASPECIALGOOD
Nylon Apartments
Demo

Nylon Apartments takes darkwave pretty seriously. Their Soundcloud page is wallpapered with an austere image of a cemetery, and the thumbnails accompanying each track are the kind of thing you'd find under an Instagram search for #creepy. Naturally, I love it. Their style of goth-pop is driven by pulsing synthesizers, electronic beats and slinky post-punk guitars, turning San Diego's obsession with surf-rock on its head by using reverb for evil rather than happy-go-lucky garage tunes. "Small Moon" is a dirge for dancing in the dark, while "To Copy the Inscription" is electro-industrial menace made catchy, and "Trials" proves that there's still something new and interesting to be made from a heavy Joy Division influence. Nylon Apartments casts one hell of a pall. soundcloud.com/nylon-apartments

-Jeff Terich


O†ion
“Moonset”

O†ion is a singer named Savannah Moreau and a producer named Fa†e. On "Moonset," the former patiently unfurls a story heavy with earthy elements as a twinkling, new age beat floats beneath her. The vibe isn't bad; Moreau's graceful voice complements the mellow track. But as the references to the natural world pile upówaterfalls, sunshine, storm clouds, a sea of stars, flowers in the breeze, towering trees—"Moonset" begins to feel like something birthed in a high school poetry class.

-Ben Salmon


Palos Verdes
Three Song Demo

If I've learned anything from my world travels, it's that reggae and its white cousin ska are huge everywhere. What's more, both genres are more tolerable if the songs are sung in a different language. So, yeah, this band's bilingual ska en ingles and español is tolerable, but here are other things I tolerate: hemorrhoids, root canals and Donald Trump supporters. facebook.com/palos.verdes.73

-Seth Combs


Parahyena
“Ayakan”

A light, easy-to-enjoy, samba-pop track with lyrics in what sounds like Portuguese. And then it switches to English and the singer says "I can make love with my hand." What the actual fuck?

-Jeff Terich


Party McFly
Off the Shelf EP

About what you'd expect given the name. Generic hard rock that somehow manages to hit on every cock-rock cliche in less than four songs. There's plenty of "uh-haws" and "oh, yeahs" and lyrical poetry like, "Wrap your legs 'round me real tight/C'mon baby, let's go for a ride." They even manage to somehow ruin a cowbell on "Do Something." Gentlemen, please, do nothing instead. soundcloud.com/ryan-housman/sets/off-the-shelf

-Seth Combs


Phoenix Band
Singles Club

Steve Miller is best known for hits such as "Abracadabra" or "Fly Like An Eagle," but before he lit up every hi-fi in Los Angeles like a two-foot line of coke at a frat party, he had genuine conviction and rubbed elbows with legends. I feel like that's the story here. The over-polished and clean recording showcases road-worn, tangible talent. These guys are real players. Hardened hands and firm chops grace this record, but something is missing. Predictable though the second track may be, it has an enjoyable lineage in the vein of Canned Heat. And "Bad Wind" is a solid reflection of the charming harmonies you would find on Workingman's Dead. I say get dirty fellas. Get out the crappy old gear, and let it all detune. Yeah, I like it.

-Brian Reilly


Plane Without a Pilot
“Cutting Ties, Cutting Losses”

Sign of the times: This demo was sent in as a Spotify link. And really, the line between demos and official releases has all but disappeared in the instant-stream ing age, so why the hell not? In any case, Plane Without A Pilot's new single certainly sounds good, with crisp production full of chiming guitars and rich vocal harmonies. The song's not much to write home about—'90s-style power pop somewhere between Weezer and Harvey Danger—but, they play it well enough. planewithoutapilot.com

-Jeff Terich


Post Attraction
Demo

Post Attraction doesn't necessarily reinvent the wheel, but that doesn't mean they're not a delight. Heavily influenced by the funky/stark post-punk of bands like Interpol, Post Attraction is basically the soundtrack to vampires falling in love. Even the frantic, compartmentalized drumming on "Unknown" recalls Bloc Party in a good way. A lot of bands seemed to have influenced Post Attraction—the good news is they're all fine inspirations.

-Ryan Bradford


Psycho
Slay by the masses

I wasn't even two minutes into this hip-hop demo before I was rubbing my temples like a depressed English teacher: "You can't beat me in a battle/I'm a werewolf, tearing your flesh like cattle/I'm a beast, I'm a cannibal, something like a Hannibal." Are those really your best rhymes, Psycho? I thought. And you want to repeat them how many times? Okay, let's look at your next song: ìI worship the mic, for reals and I'm tight/See me Las Vegas bustin' live and that's no hype." Sigh.

-Ryan Bradford


Retra
Push

Retra features a strong female vocalist who sings over a tight, smooth alt-rock band. They are all very talented and professional, and I want nothing more than to hear them shred a cover of Sleep's "Dopesmoker," or declare their love of The Dark Lord. Or I just want them to do something unexpected, I guess. The vocals are compelling, and I have a feeling the live show captures something the recording is lacking. weareretra.bandcamp.com

-Carrie Gillespie Feller


Roiz Won87
Dia De Los Muertos

Solid hip-hop for DatPiff enthusiasts that includes beats that will appeal to devoted crate-diggers. Roiz has a decent flow and mostly uses it to chastise politicians ("Richard Ramirez Flow") and fake-ass ballers ("I Am Not Them"). The album works best when Roiz gets dark and brings in friends like Doble Philo on tracks like "Libertad," a stony, paranoid anthem that should get trunks rattling in no time. soundcloud.com/roizwon87

-Seth Combs


Second Cousins
EP

I'll be the first to admit that new Americana tends to activate my gag reflex, but there are always exceptions to the rule. Second Cousins are one such exception, performing breezy and rustic folk-rock that's rich in layered textures and hypnotic arrangements. "Something to Lose" is a Laurel Canyon daydream full of Rhodes piano and shimmering guitars, while "Thrown Right In" is finger-picked beauty akin to a bluesier Elliott Smith. "Tijuana" even gets kind of loud once they crank up the distortion. Second Cousins have learned all the right lessons from Dad-Rock. secondcousins.bandcamp.com

-Jeff Terich


Sei Nove
Demo

Sei Nove's bio states that they sound like both Jim Morrison and The Doors, which perhaps suggests they're more Morrison than Morrison, but that's not even really true. The music is more akin to early Beck, heavy on acoustic guitars, drum machine beats and traces of psychedelia. And it's actually pretty damn decent. When the saxophone kicks in on "J's Ways," it's like those Doors comparisons never even happened. reverbnation.com/seinove

-Jeff Terich

EXTRASPECIALGOOD
Shades McCool
The First Four Demos

The Bandcamp tags on this EP include "comedy," "crouton," "math rock" and "power pop." Somehow, that's exactly right. These four songs are fine little chunks of pop-rock candy, each pumped up with an appropriate amount of wriggling energy, plus well-placed synth sounds and pop-culture references (Game of Thrones, MST3K, etc.) There's a predilection for novelty here—one song is about how to make croutons—but it never distracts from the punchy chord progressions or the memorable melodies. Shades McCool reminds me of the indie-pop band Wolfie, criminally overlooked synth-emo heroes The Anniversary and San Diego's own Pinback. So it's no surprise, perhaps, that Rob Crow recorded a couple of these songs. shadesmccool.bandcamp.com

-Ben Salmon


Showcase
Untitled

While this demo's opening track, "Teeth," quickly finds a seat at the Gap-punk table and shoves Billy Joe Armstrong off his seat, it loses its grit in its anthemic chorus, which lacks fire and any kind of message. As the demo progresses further down the bunny trail, it bounces loosely on Alien Ant Farm-style vocals atop solid musicianship that would have captivated crowds of the MTV Beach House generation. No one can refute that it's catchy, but I'm waiting for the screaming, visceral howls of the oppressed humans that wrote the goddamn thing. Find something that pisses you off and come back. Happy people make shitty art. I know you bastards aren't happy.

-Brian Reilly


Sissy Ray
Demo

Sissy Ray should be lauded for their daring if for nothing else. Their jams feature a chorus of men's vocals in pseudo-chants, dirty and jangling guitar, and a flare of mariachi. The combination produces something that sounds like Nirvana mingling with Fleet Foxes at a tequila festival. The songs end up sounding fuzzy and only slightly rehearsed. It's interesting for the combination of styles but not much else. soundcloud.com/sissyray

-Evan Nyarady


The Skipping Nature
Dig the Skip

Listening to the opener on this CD was like taking acid and wandering into the office of my middle school guidance counselor just in time to hear him tell me about the genius of David Hasselhoff's new record. While I dug the loop on the second track, and the vocals were a little easier to handle, the lyrics zigzagged like a drunken bicyclist on Garnet Ave at 2 a.m. I can appreciate the abstract nature of the words, but it felt forced. This is also a very long demo: 23 tracks make this longer than The White Album and Odessey And Oracle combined. By track three, I was wondering if I should even continue writing.

-Brian Reilly

EXTRASPECIALGOOD
Slay Dean
Red Tape/Demos

The abstract surf-driven opening of Slay Dean's "Alien Mondo" kicks off their Red Tape demo in the best way, mixing Television's Marquee Moon with The Astronauts' Everything is A-Ok record. From there, this killer sprawls into a Jorma-fueled Interpol-tone-refinement seminar with rapid-fire bursts of psychedelic light-show music. Is it good? No. It's brilliant. It's a wandering land mine of fragmented lines, brave warm sun guitar tonality and spectral melodies that will have you wondering "who the hell is this, and where can I get this?" I hope that Slay Dean doesn't plan on wearing out their welcome by getting mainstream radio airplay. What am I even saying—it won't get major radio airplay. It's far too good for that.

-Brian Reilly


Small Culture
Synthetica

I hate when people submit one song. Shit, dude. Really? But this one, from the solo project of one Jerik Centeno, is worth checking out. Like something born of a steamy, chemically-enhanced ménage à trois between The Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie and múm, it also features vocals from Jenna Cotton of The Verigolds. I'm in. Now, let's hear some more.

-Scott McDonald


Sometimes Julie
Bright Side of the Line

For reasons I can't fully explain, this CD was misidentified by Apple as a Justin Bieber and Jaden Smith collaboration. It's not that. It's pretty basic rock music with bluesy riffs, hammy vocals and generic platitudes like "Take me to another world!" Pleasant and forgettable, but I suppose it's at least not a collaboration between Jaden Smith and Justin Bieber.

-Jeff Terich


EXTRASPECIALGOOD
Stalins of Sound
Demos for Biology Museum

"Obviously the recordings are shitty demos," says the email from Stalins of Sound, "and the LP versions will be different." Understood, but here's hoping these synth-punk pillagers don't clean things up too much. The songs here sound like The Faint made a baby with Black Flag, and that baby's flinging corroded buzzsaws at your head like Frisbees. Stalins of Sound are grimy and propulsive and unrelenting, and if tracks such as "Prison Planet" and "Sputnik" are any indication, their upcoming album is going to be one bracing blast of beautiful noise after another. Hail to our new bleep-bloop hardcore overlords. stalinsofsound.bandcamp.com

-Ben Salmon


Stanz
The Untitled Album

In the first track on Stanz's The Untitled Album, the emcee proclaims that he's been on his grind since he was 12 years old. That's pretty impressive, though on this brief, seven-track set of mid-'00s-style laid-back West Coast hip-hop with jazz flourishes, Stanz keeps that grind going, with frequent references to "hustlin'" and having to "get this dough." Only occasionally does Stanz dial up the intensity, instead getting comfortable in the stoned soundscapes he's surrounded by, the exception being a raunchy sex track in which he declares his intentions to "make that pussy hurt." I hope for her sake that she has a say in the matter.

-Jeff Terich


Stranger Ranger
Demo tracks

The woozy, dark psychedelic sound of the guitar in first track "Baby Come On" made me think that Stranger Ranger would be delivering some dreamy post-punk à la Warpaint. That was not to be. That particular song all too quickly transitioned into some lazily plodding jam rock. Not that it's necessarily bad, but over the next three tracks on the EP, Stranger Ranger can't seem to figure out what it wants to be. They're breezy indie pop one moment, Mumford-y busker folk the next, and slow-burning blues rock in the final track. There are kernels of promise in each song, but at the end of the day, Stranger Ranger would benefit from a bit more focus.

-Jeff Terich


Sunset at Duck Pond
Demo

Two ambient instrumentals that sound like a cross between the music you hear before an IMAX movie at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and the soundtrack for time-lapse footage in a documentary on crystal formation. I think it'd also pair well with narration-less, deep-sea footage. And weed.

-Scott Mcdonald


EXTRASPECIALGOOD
Tall Can & Generik
Fungi.Psych(E).Boots

If Generik is involved in a record, thereís bound to be a degree of certainty that it contains some top-notch beats and rhymes. So it is with Fungi.Psych(E).Boots, the local beatmaker and emceeís collaboration with rapper Tall Can. Based on the name, itís pretty apparent that this collection of songs is heavily influenced by some mind-bending substances, and as such itís one hell of a sampladelic trip. Generik treats each of the recordís 18 tracks to various layers of heady effects and soulful, jazzy weirdness. Tall Can holds his own as an emcee, punctuating these tracks with his herky-jerky flow, but he could be rapping about anything and these tracks will still be incredible. Pure hallucinatory ear candy. tallcangenerik.bandcamp.com

-Jeff Terich

The Tascams
Demo

Apparently named The Tascams because all their songs were recorded on analog 8-track tape, The Tascams made their demo the old-fashioned way. There's an inviting warmth to the shimmering indie rock grooves they deliver and a '90s throwback indie vibe with some gentle slowcore tones. This isn't groundbreaking stuff, but for anyone who ever made mixtapes of lo-fi obscurities in their college years, it's impossible not to like.

-Jeff Terich


Terrans
Terrans

I can honestly say I was not expecting Terrans to sound like Rage Against the Machine. The band features rhythmically dynamic punk and hard rock arrangements, juxtaposed against a vocalist that raps more than sings and, for that matter, does so with more ferocity than your average 311 soundalike. Still, "McKenna" shows they're not above delving into some ill-advised reggae-rap-rock. This is better than it has any right to be, but it's still rap rock at the end of the day. terrans.bandcamp.com

-Jeff Terich


The Thief’s Lineage
Demo

This four-song sampler starts out with two killer, proto-punk songs featuring slick organ riffs that are right out of a silent horror film. So I was a little confused when the last two songs were folky clap-along campfire jams. Not that I'm complaining. Both sides of this band's proverbial coin are pretty damn good so it'll be interesting to hear if they can combine or coalesce their varying influences. thethiefslineage.bandcamp.com

-Seth Combs


Toques
01

Highly listenable ambient and drone music with some eerie beats and jazz fusion elements thrown in for good measure. The entirety of the record's eight tracks sound like the soundtrack of an indie thriller film, and each song feels like it's made up of tiny vignettes from differing scenes, all of which are dark and foreboding (smoke some herb and listen to the haunting "6_1" and "7" to get some good feels). toquesmusic.bandcamp.com

-Seth Combs


Trelic
Three Teaser Tracks

Three segments of songs packed into one three-minute Soundcloud track. This is Trelic, a San Diego quartet that walks a wobbly line between thrash metal, strangled punk and brutish hard rock. Ryan Toth wrangles some pretty good, fuzzy tone out of his guitar, and Ryan Kellyís got the kind of snarl thatís made for this kind of music. There are good parts here, but Trelic needs to continue to refine its vision. facebook.com/trelic619

-Ben Salmon


Tribal Theory
Reclamation EP

Despite the 2014 departure of two co-founding members, Tribal Theory's Reclamation EP still sounds like it comes from a band that firmly knows its identity. The EP's half dozen songs (five, plus a remix) are sharply produced, radio friendly and honor the vocally driven, Polynesian-rooted reggae sound that established them in the first place. facebook.com/TribalTheoryMusic

-Scott McDonald

True 12
Five song EP sampler

I can't tell if these five hip-hop songs are supposed to be some kind of clever and ironic parody of hip-hop clichés. I think it is, as evidenced by what I think is a Lil Jon spoof ("Nine Months Mistake") and '80s-tinged odes to tasting the rainbow ("Skittles"). Still, even if it is, this music is neither clever nor ironic. It's not even slightly funny. It just sounds like some stoned idiots setting their inside jokes to some awful beats.

-Seth Combs


Trunk Slammers
The 4 for Fucking EP

Trunk Slammers are a capable bar band. Simple as that. Four guys with different backgrounds from different parts of the country who've come together in San Diego to play rock 'n' roll flavored with blues, surf and, most often, classic soul. The recordings on this unfortunately named EP aren't life-changing, but they're tuneful and well-crafted, and the best of 'em is an easygoing pop 'n' soul nugget called "Greenlight" that contains a couple of unexpected turns. soundcloud.com/trunk-slammers

-Ben Salmon


EXTRASPECIALGOOD
Two Moons Merging
Wax Bodies

Dark, noisy sounds have been a part of the San Diego music scene—however minor—for as long as I can remember. Yet as time presses forward, that sinister, experimental spirit produces even better results. Two Moons Merging, the project of producer Bradley Coy, finds beauty in darkness, combining drone, noise, musique concrÍte and ambient into a gorgeously unsettling blend. Coy's closest spiritual predecessor is Tim Hecker, whose conceptual works mine a similar cross-section of grace and grime. The four tracks on Wax Bodies carry a similar juxtaposition of instrumental elegance and digital dissonance, each one like a journey through some horrific, yet awe-inspiring realm. Most impressive of all is the closing 10-minute track, which slowly builds up into a symphony of static. Wonderful things happen when San Diego gets weird. twomoonsmerging.bandcamp.com

Various Artists
Extrasensory Perception Vol. 2

Extrasensory Perception Vol. 2 features songs compiled by Ekstre Records founder, DJ Arkon. It's an all-star line up of electronic producers exploring a variety of drum and bass styles. Across six songs, ESP Vol. 2 is a quick trip that extends from the Chill Collective's bass warbles on "Genetikz" to nKey's "Sub Level" cool, as a solid EP that leaves no DnB sub-genre untouched.

-J. Smith


Vietnam Hardcore
Demo

There's an undeniable tightness to Vietnam Hardcore—opener "I Confess" blasts out the gate like vintage H2O—but the songs eventually end up sounding the same. Also, when the band veers into political territory, they opt for the annoyingly vague anti-establishment rhetoric that most punk bands fall into when they don't know the political environment. I mean, there's nothing damning or insightful about the repeated refrain, "Guess the West could care less" in "Lords of War." vietnamhardcore.bandcamp.com

-Ryan Bradford


Vice Society
Tuneage

Look fellas, when you have a name like Vice Society, you best not sound like a church youth group band trying to pass off Boston songs as their own. Actually, with all the mentions of divinity, resurrections and purity, I might not be too far off on the church presumption. I should get a fucking medal for having listened to 17 tracks of this. What are their vices exactly? Cool ranch Doritos, promise rings and binge watching My Little Pony? Fuck outta here. soundcloud.com/vice-society

-Seth Combs


Western Settings
Old Pain

I had major flashbacks of attending angsty high school shows at the SOMA sidestage while listening to Western Settings' demo, Old Pain. If you're into punk sounds with black hoodies and mosh-pit vibes, then this is the EP for you. My favorite was the instrumental "Swells," a particularly pleasant and dreamy track. More of that, please. facebook.com/westernsettings

-Alex Morales


Wicked Monk
Smooches N’ Junk

"No Other One," the first of four songs on the Smooches N' Junk EP, is the kind of rowdy, lo-fi punk blues that sounds great while driving fast with the windows down. Unfortunately, the three tunes that follow don't even come close to matching its pace or charisma, instead settling for a forgettable middle ground somewhere between singer/songwriter blah and forced quirk.

-Scott McDonald


Wolff
Two-song sampler

If the NRA is looking for an anthemic crowd-pleaser for their rallies, they should look no further than this band's "My Dead Hands." It's only toward the end of the song that you realize that Wolff is actually trying to make some kind of profound pro-gun-control statement, but by then, it's too late. Your ears will already be bleeding from the back alley aural abortion they've just received. wolff.rocks

-Seth Combs

Yegor
Demo

At first, I was optimistic about Yegor's mind-blowingly corny lyrics, which I might have likened to Jonathan Richman. But that optimism disappeared at the start of song two, specifically when he starts singing, "girl it's true, my body wants you." I just didn't want to listen anymore. He's an incredibly skilled guitar player and his jangly surf-rock is fun, but even jangly surf-rock needs a little bit of substance. soundcloud.com/yegor

-Carrie Gillespie Feller

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